Pete Buttigieg’s Coded Language Shows the Limits and Promise of LGBTQ ProgressRoundup
tags: Democratic Party, 2020 Election, LGBTQ history, Pete Buttigieg
Nathaniel Frank is Director of the What We Know Project at Cornell University.
Indeed, at certain moments, hearing Buttigieg’s words was excruciating for me both because of the personal resonance of his struggle and because of what it says about where the country is on LGBTQ equality.
When Buttigieg was asked by The New York Times editorial board why he didn’t embody the anger many Americans feel about the state of the nation, he insisted that his presidential bid was “propelled by a level of passion,” and added that “some people are given more room to be emotive than others.”
Pressed on what he meant, he explained that he was sometimes asked to “have more of a flourish in displaying my emotions, and it is precisely because I feel very strongly about lots of things that I have learned to master how I might feel about anything and channel that into action.” He concluded by saying he is “mindful as the new guy that maybe waving my arms is not the best way to convey what I care about.”
Most LGBTQ people will find this language familiar, if incomplete. We are used to carefully calibrating how much of a “flourish” we give off when we express ourselves. We’ve spent our lives learning, by necessity, to “master” our passions and channel them into action that feels safer than acting on them directly. We’ve become experts at communicating in code – and at decoding communication.
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